Making Your Characters Sick! – From May 2019

This is going to be a short post today, and one for the writers who may come across it. It will be short because, well, wait a minute, I have to blow my nose…Okay, I’m back. That’s why. I woke up in the middle of the night last night with a scratchy throat threatening to become a sore throat, a leaky nose, and someone standing behind my bed pounding on the top of my head with what I am certain must have been a two-by-four. Maybe a four-by-six. I tried to open my eyes to find out, but everything started spinning so much I had to close them again and just hang on to the side of the bed as the room did the Macarena.

The day hasn’t gotten much better. I had a nice list of projects needing to get done today, and now, as of six in the evening, I’ve gotten, let me see, yeah, none of them done. But, I did accomplish two things. First, I opened OneNote and moved everything I was going to do today to tomorrow, and moved everything else I could one day forward as well. And, as I was sitting in the sun on the deck trying to get the clouds to stop making that roaring sound as they whoooshed overhead, I got a really neat idea to help me get to know my story characters a bit better.

I do think I know my characters fairly well, though some disagree with me. I fully admit that I am more interested in knowing how my characters think than how they look. I trust my readers will be able to paint in a lot of those visual elements, and the Emily they create in their mind will mean a lot more to them than the one in my mind. Of course, if there is something about a character’s appearance that is integral to the story I’ll know about that. But all the rest of the things on those character sheets I keep being asked to fill-out just don’t interest me all that much. But anytime I can learn something new about what is going on inside my characters, I get excited. That’s what happened this afternoon sitting in that chair under those noisy clouds.

My mind distracted me from the clouds by asking, “I wonder how Emily Graham would deal with feeling like this?” Then it asked the same thing about Dasilva, VanHollings, Lizard, Angelique, GrisGris, the Doctor, Klass, and the rest of my character family. The next few hours were kind of fun, as I imagined my characters waking up in the middle of the night like I did, and then just kind of watched them as their day unfolded.

Emily spent most of the morning on the couch wrapped up in an old quilt her mom had made back in 1973, watching reruns of the Andy Griffith Show and drinking lots of water, hot tea with honey, and eight ounces of her grandmother’s cure that you took whenever you felt like this. It included six ounces of Jack Daniels, and other things. Emily thinks those other things included lemon juice, but she didn’t have any so she used orange juice, some tea made with a real teabag, and some kind of hot sauce. All Emily found in her fridge was a packet of extra-spicy sauce that came with the chicken she bought eight or nine months ago, but she didn’t have the courage to add it, so she drank the Jack Daniels with orange juice, tea, and a tablespoon of honey. She actually had two of them, and may have a third before the day is over. She also shut-off her phone, ignored email and instant messages. She also yelled at the television a lot. Even at Barney. And, oh, she finished the half-bag of chocolate chip cookies from the back of the cupboard, three of those small bags of potato chips, a bowl of Cheetos, two single-serving containers of banana pudding, and is currently pre-heating the oven to warm up the half-a-pizza she found in the bottom of the freezer in the garage. She thinks it is sausage and pepperoni but there is too much frost on it to know for sure.

I’m going to spend a bit more time to check on the others. I wasn’t all that surprised with what I learned about Emily, but I haven’t spent as much time with some of the others, so I think I may really learn some thing about how they really tick. Those are the things that, in my view, really help create good stories. I’ll try to remember to post about this again later and let you know what I find, but based on how the day is going, I’m not sure how much I’m going to remember at all.

But, if you want to have a bit of fun and see if you can discover some new insights into any of your characters, why not make them sick? Don’t try to think about what they would do on a day like I’m having, but just wake them up in the middle of the night with that scratchy throat and banging head, and then just watch as they deal with their day. Let me know how it goes.

And now, I think I may go give Emily’s Grandmother’s cure a try.



By |2020-09-07T16:42:10+00:00February 15th, 2020|Emily Graham, Fiction, Ideas, imagination, learning, short stories, Writing|0 Comments

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